26 March 2011

On Eating Ungulate

A couple jars of braised elk, the fruit of someone else's hunting labor, were collecting dust in my cupboard. One night in need of a quick, grocery store-free meal with a jolt of protein, I unearthed the forgotten lode. With some trepidation CK and I eyed the jar, but the seal was still intact, so we each speared a piece of the tender meat and ate it. We waited the requisite twelve seconds and no violent stomach spasms ensued, so dinner was on!

Pre-prepared meat makes dinner a snap for flesh-phobes like us. Now it's become a game--how many different ways can we associate canned meat into our nightly repast? The elk, which was bagged somewhere in the Rockies, has now been subject to a variety of quasi-ethnic cuisines. It adorned tomatoes, okra, and cheesy grits, accompanied parmesan pasta with fried egg and yard spinach, and topped couscous in tzatziki sauce. Last night it was elk tamales with piquant pico de gallo, pepper jack, and pinto beans. (Oh how I love alimentary aliteration!)

Once a majestic free spirit roaming the wilderness, this critter now graces my table in various flavorful forms.

Now we've killed one jar but there are still a few more lurking in the back of the pantry. Suggestions?

24 March 2011

Race Reportage?

i was waiting for pictures from the weekend to surface so that i could adorn this post with something but it seems that nothing will appear, and i am buzzing off a great group ride with the fellas, so i thought i'd throw this out there.

hobby park, first real-ish xc race of the season. yes, i promise i am retired, but despite that i keep finding myself filling out waivers, kitting up, standing on start lines. an unpleasant but short winter has meant a lot more time on the trails this year, and while i'm not IN TRAINING (this is always italicized and in caps in my head), i've put in a lot of fun hours with the baby dino, who is really maturing into a lovely little Era.

after a chill start i trailed Fast Anina for awhile, knowing that she wasn't working too hard to hold me off. i caught phantom glimpses of her through the trees but worried more about Tenacious Bonnie, who stayed a minute off my back the whole time. at first i was terribly irked because if there's one thing i hate in bike racing, it's having a pursuant...or being in pursuit...or being alone...

eventually i realized that while i couldn't widen the gap, she also couldn't narrow it, and i let it motivate me. i pushed the big ring as often as possible and stayed smooth on the bike. and admired the toadshades popping out of the leaves.
it was way fun, which is not an adjective i associate with racing. this bodes well for the season (which of course is not really a season, you know, because i'm retired.)

st marie also had a good race, and don't let him tell you otherwise.

p.s. happy spring!

16 March 2011

Good Eats

warm weather brings with it outdoor dining and late night bull sessions. this week i and my favored coterie (housemate, her mate, my mate) collaborated on some more interesting dishes in honor of the changing of the clocks. saturday night we had grilled sausage on hard rolls with spicy asian slaw and sauteed onions, washed down with a growler of craggie's antebellum ale. on monday it was stir-fried bok choy and cabbage and pan-fried tilapia over couscous, and last night we did yet another riff of our favorite cheap entree: the epic salad, this time with arugula, strawberries, homemade croutons, avocado, goat cheese, and local eggs. and of course warm chocolate chip cookies for dessert. rumor has it that shrimp and grits are on the menu for friday night. who needs restaurants?

14 March 2011

I'm Not Moving to Florida

it was the great land of the unknown. for me, it was the opposite of milk and honey; it was the land of sweat and no elevation change. for years i had mocked this unfortunate protrusion off the bulk of the country, this elongated blister that produced so many slow drivers and so few people that recycle. my roommate, a native of that state, had suffered my not-so-gentle ribbing for too long. "julia, it's time that you shed your ignorant preconceptions of my homeland. join me in an enlightening trek southward."
florida, for all its enumerable flaws, was not quite as bad as i expected. while i went brain-dead driving everywhere to do everything, that's a feature of any sprawling wasteland, whether it be los angeles, charlotte, or the midwest. we visited pristine beaches and played in the clear cerulean water. we pretended to have a bit of culture and took in some art at the dalí museum. yes, we were surrounded by stereotypical seniors who carried on loud conversations in grating boston accents, but there are plenty of northern transplants in toxaway and cashiers too. and even though the air was filled with the sound of honking and the smell of fast food, i sometimes caught a whiff of orange blossoms and ripening strawberries.
florida is a swampy flatland devoid of character (so i thought) and i brought my mountain bike without much hope that it would see action. false. through some helpful contacts i found riding buddies for two solid days in the saddle. first i hit alafia river state park, which imba has named an epic trail system. epic it was not, but fun it was. florida trail-builders are by necessity insanely creative. the trails were snaky masterpieces carved into limestone and dirt, through algae ponds, palmettos, and tangerine groves, with plenty of heart-stopping drops and ledges. the next day i explored balm boyette with a fellow spring-breaker and we discovered the new destination trail of the area: ridgeline. ridgeline, which was built in '08, was probably the most exhilarating two miles i've ever ridden. it was a corkscrew roller coaster of out-of-control whoops, each one taller than the next. no pictures or videos do it justice, so you'll just have to take my word that it was a gem.
i, of course, took nary a picture because the only time i think to extricate my camera is when i see mountains. let's pretend i took this:
"wow," you're wondering. "how did she manage such a nice aerial shot?" don't worry about it.

so. even as i sat happily eating toast in caitlin's backyard, wearing shorts in wintertime, shaded by wisteria and grapefruit trees, the thought never crossed my mind that i wanted to live there. sorry florida. you were kinda nice, but no thank you.

03 March 2011

Ode to Pisgah

I hadn't been running in awhile so I decided to go hurt myself on Pressley Cove before work. It was a beautiful day, just like every other day in February. My heart pounded and my legs burned as I puffed slowly up the climb, which must attain a thirty degree slope in places. Although my brain was addled and anaerobic, reasons to love Pisgah kept popping into my head.
Passing by that incongruous chimney built off to the side of Maxwell, I stopped to read the plaque commemorating it as a historic feature. I have always liked the utilitarian history of the forest. It was not protected for or shaped by hikers and bikers; before there was IMBA, Tom Ritchey, or Gary Fisher, there was Gifford Pinchot, Carl Schenck, and George Vanderbilt.
Scanning for that secret connector that would spit me back out on Avery Creek Road, I thought with affection of the trail maintenance grudgingly performed by a small cadre of forest rangers and independent contractors. For the most part they leave us to our own devices; we avoid the puddles, brush away the briars, and mold the trails with heavy travel, whether by foot, hoof, or tire.
I love the delicious snobbism that we've cultivated living here. "Oh, you have eighty miles of trails? Well, we have hundreds of thousands of acres of national forest. Oh, you have a gnarly rock garden that everyone sessions? Well, we have Daniel Ridge. Oh, you drive an hour on weekends when you want a change of scenery? Well, we have Dupont."
I love the miles upon miles of gravel roads upon which you can beat your brain into submission. I love the seasonal trails; just as the weather turns glum, we have them to look forward to like early Christmas presents. I love the glittering exhilaration in the eyes of a newcomer after that first descent of something super sketchy.
I love the friendly hikers with their day packs and ski poles. And even the not-so-friendly ones; their snarling possessiveness just means they love it too. I love the fevered masochism of people who compete in the Double Dare, the stage race, or the Pitchell 100k (sheer insanity). I love the tourists who lumber around the parking lots like corpulent dollar signs, because they never defile the quiet havens a half mile from their cars. I love the rugged, majestic views you encounter on almost every trail.

It's times like this, when I know I haven't seen half of what Pisgah has to offer, that I question my (or anyone's) need to leave here for even a few years. I will definitely go somewhere else, but I will just as definitely come back.